ASG reviews details of ASH Cable investment
One of the owners of the undersea fiber optic cable company, American Samoa Hawai’i Cable Inc, which the government has shares in, has recommended the Lolo Administration build a new cable either from Fiji or New Zealand. In the meantime, the government is reviewing details of its investments in ASH-Cable.
Under the Togiola Administration, the government had invested $9 million — with the help of federal funds — into American Samoa Hawai’i Cable Inc., giving ASG ownership of 33% shares in the company, which is majority owned by Florida based eLandia. The company was officially launched in 2009.
Bluesky Communications is eLandia’s locally owned subsidiary, as well as the American Samoa to Samoa link of the ASH-Cable.
Asked during a news conference Wednesday if the new administration had been briefed on the status of ASH-Cable, the governor says he has met a couple of times with Bluesky officials on this matter “and we’re very much aware of what’s in there and what belongs to us” in the cable.
In fact, he said, this is one of the issues that was taken up during last week’s meeting of territorial leaders, as “we are trying to clarify where we stand” with the investment in which ASG owns company shares.
“So we’re trying to figure out what to do with it, and it will take another meeting with the [territorial] leaders before we can decide on what to do,” he said.
Asked about dividends ASG can expect from the investment, Lolo said, “we are expecting some dividends either this year or next year, but we’ll get the details on that.” He also said the government hasn’t decided yet on what to do with ASG dividends earned — with the next round of dividends expected to be $2 million in 2015.
Lolo pointed out that there are other factors involved in ASH-Cable operations that needed further clarification and understanding by the current administration before making any final decision on its investments.
“We need to understand more of the details of what that investment is all about,” he said, adding that other ASG obligations to ASH-Cable are not very clear. “So as soon as we clear out all those things, then we’ll be able to make a decision, whether we should get the dividends or take further actions.”
Asked if those actions include selling ASG shares, Lolo said, “I cannot really say” as it will require further discussion with territorial leaders.
The governor’s executive assistant Iulogologo Joseph Pereira added that ASH-Cable has recommended to the governor to build a second cable to support an increase in users of fiber optic.
“The bandwidth will be fully utilized and additional users without adding capacity will drastically slow the flow of information,” he said. “It is estimated that by 2015 the present capacity of the existing cable will be fully utilized, thus necessitating the new cable.”
Two options were provided to the governor on building a new cable link, the first is building from Fiji at the cost of $40 million and the second option is following the current pattern of tying to Hawai’i at $100 million.
The governor has yet to make a decision on this issue, which will require consultation with Fono leaders on ASG’s role in such a project.
The government communications agency, ASTCA, purchases fiber optic capacity packages from ASH-Cable, under 10-year contracts. Samoa News understands ASTCA was seeking to purchase another package, as it’s fully utilizing what it has on hand. However, ASTCA is reluctant to do so under another 10-year contract, given that it is working on solving it’s ‘capacity’ problem through cheaper means.